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Shanghai celebrates the three year anniversary of its pilot free trade zone

A negative list approach for foreign investment, one of the most laudable practices initiated by Shanghai’s pilot free trade zone, will be rolled out nationwide from October 1, as the zone ushers in its third anniversary today.

The list, which specifies off-limits areas to foreign capital, was first introduced in September 2013 when Shanghai FTZ was inaugurated to test ground-breaking market deregulation and opening up policies.

Foreign investments in areas beyond the list are only subjected to a recoding-filing process, a shift from the previous case-by-case approval regime.

Having been applied to the country’s another three FTZs in Guangdong, Fujian and Tianjin, the Ministry of Commerce said earlier this month that the method will be rolled out nationwide from October 1.

Ministry spokesperson Shen Danyang said the list, which now includes 122 items, would be further shortened to broaden allowable areas for foreign investors.

The latest version, revised in April 2015, singles out 15 industries that are completely or partially restricted to foreign capital, ranging from mining, telecommunications, and financial services to  medical services, legal services and education.

The negative list approach is among a slew of reform measures piloted in Shanghai FTZ, aiming to cut red tapes at government administration, reduce bureaucracy at customs, open up investments for foreign capital and liberalize control on financial flows.

In the past three years, a batch of 31 new customs rules have shaved clearance times at the Shanghai FTZ for imports by an average 78.5 percent, and for exports, by 31.7 percent, data from Shanghai Customs showed. The overall costs for customs clearance were reduced by about 30 percent.

In terms of financial reform, multinational companies has been allowed to carry out cross-border capital management and a free trade account system has been put in place to facilitate cross-border financing and investment.

By the end of July, 45 financial institutions opened 55,543 free-trade accounts with companies in the zone, official data showed. Funds worth of 2.8 trillion yuan (US$420 billion) has been transferred via the accounts.


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